Table of Contents

This is part 5 of the series Embedded Linux with Raspberry Pi 3 Model B. Please check earlier articles to get the grasp of current one.


In the earlier articles, we compiled toolchain, U-boot for Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and established TFTP communication to transfer files from host system to target (RPI3 Model B).

In this article, we are going to compile Linux kernel for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, load kernel and device tree from the U-Boot. Make sure the tftp communicaiton is working fine before proceeding with the following.

Cross compile and load Linux kernel for Raspbery Pi 3 Model B
Cross compile and load Linux kernel for Raspbery Pi 3 Model B

Download the kernel

Raspberry Pi organization maintains it’s own fork of Linux kernel to support all Raspberry Pi variants. Let’s download the Linux kernel from offical Raspberry Pi repository.

cd ~/rpi3
git clone
cd linux
git checkout rpi-4.19.y

Create a branch for your local development.

git checkout -b <new_branch_name>

ex: git checkout -b 4.19.y-local

Compile kernel for RPI

Let’s use the cross-toolchain we compiled here. Let’s compile Linux kerenl for arm64. Run the following commands to set ARCH and CROSS_COMPILE environment variables.

export ARCH=arm64 # This should match one of the directories in `arch` folder.
export CROSS_COMPILE=aarch64-rpi3-linux-gnu-
export PATH=$PATH:~/x-tools/aarch64-rpi3-linux-gnu/bin/

This kenel does have a pre defined configuration file for Raspberry Pi 3 Model B called bcmrpi3_defconfig present in arch/arm64/configs directory. Let’s generate .config file.

make bcmrpi3_defconfig

Compile the Linux kernel by running following command. The make -j option will compile Linux kernel with the available nproc CPU cores.

make -j`nproc`

Load Linux kernel and device tree

As we will be changing the Linux kernel and driver source frequently in the later articles, it will be cumbersome to copy the Linux kernel to SD card every time we change something. So we are going to automate the process of loading the kernel and device tree in the following sections. This eliminates the need of removal and insertion of SD cards from/to RPI.

After completion of cross compilation for Linux kernel, let’s copy the kernel and device tree binary to the tftp server directory.

cp arch/arm64/boot/Image <tftp server directory>/kernel.img
cp arch/arm64/boot/dts/broadcom/bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb <tftp server directory>


cp arch/arm64/boot/Image /srv/tftp/kernel.img
cp arch/arm64/boot/dts/broadcom/bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb /srv/tftp/

Load Linux kernel and dtb file from U-boot console

Now powerup the board, enter into U-boot console and run the following commands.

tftp 0x2000000 kernel.img
tftp 0x200000 bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb
booti 0x2000000 - 0x200000
  • The tftp 0x2000000 kernel.img command will load kernel.img file from tftp server directory to the RAM address of 0x2000000.
  • The tftp 0x200000 bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb command will load bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb device tree binary file from tftp server to the RAM address of 0x200000.
  • The booti command is used to boot arm64 Linux image from the memory. It has 3 arguments. The first argument is the kernel load address - 0x2000000. The second argument is the initramfs load address. We are not using any initramfs. So passing - (hyphen). The third argument is the device tree binary load address - 0x200000.
Note: The kernel crash is expected here as there is no proper filesystem or init program passed to the kernel.

We can automate the above process of kernel and device tree booting every time the board boots up by setting the bootcmd env in the U-boot console.

setenv bootcmd 'tftp 0x2000000 kernel.img; tftp 0x200000 bcm2710-rpi-3-b.dtb; booti 0x2000000 - 0x200000'